Cardio Or Weights?

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My alarm went off with that startling, glaring reality that it was time to leave my comfy bed. I cast a beady eye toward the offending thing and whacked it into silence.

It was momentary silence as I heard the sound of rain and mentally felt my athletic plans washing away  like the rain that  was running off my roof.

Ugh. No fun outdoor activities for me.

Let me say, I have no issues running in it. I have done it multiple times training for a race and I’m stubbornly ridge on my training so other than if it’s lightening with the rain, I take myself out in it. There’s something incredibly awesome, wonderful, crazy, and intense about running in the rain.

But I don’t have a race I’m currently training for…soooo…..

Plan B.

I came up with Plan B years ago when I realized how much I hated a treadmill and how I hated looking outside and not being in it. I hadn’t really started running at that point but I’d knock off miles walking on it.

It bored me. I watched the time and mileage slip by wondering why it didn’t feel so god forsaken long when I was out on the road…

That’s when I decided to do something else on days I was trapped inside.  I started boxing which was a seriously good cardio workout, but then I also began to mix strength training up with it too.  That allowed me to get creative with what I wanted to do thus, keeping me from boredom.

I found I could start off boxing ( at that point it didn’t take long to have me begging for mercy… a song or two…) then I’d move into lifting some weight and then just doing some body work.

I found I liked that and it gave me an alternate for when I couldn’t escape outside. ( now days it honestly takes a whole lot to hold me inside)

but back then, a few years ago, I didn’t really understand or realize the importance of shaking up the type of workouts I did.

It wasn’t till I was really running a lot that I began to get how important strength training was to making me a  stronger athlete for the things I loved doing.

Lifting some weight not only helped build a bit of muscle but it strengthened and protected ligaments and tendons in my body. Core and upper body work that made me stronger began to be invaluable on long runs when my legs would start to tire. Having upper body  and good core strength helped carry me.

Now putting miles in on the bike it goes without saying having a strong body overall is a huge benefit to some fast moving speed and being able to support myself being in a bent position, stretched out over the bike.

So…. cardio… strength training.

What’s best? Is one best? Which should you do?

Ok, I’m a cardio junkie. I’ll admit it. It just goes with being an endurance athlete. You get a crazy high off the miles and beating the heck out of yourself out there. If I’m not in the double digits I don’t think I’ve done anything.

Yes… I fully understand how you’re reading this thinking I’m crazy…unless you do the same thing then you are sitting there nodding your head ’cause you get it.

You recover to go back and do it again… and again… relishing the strength you build out there and the feelings you get from it.

And I know that’s not for everyone….

Here’s what I would say. Both are important.

First, you really need to know what your goals are. If you are wanting to lose weight, cardio is the biggest burn for your buck. You need it.

I know, I know. It’s hard. It hurts. You really realize that you are out of shape when you do it.

Do it anyway.

But you also need to have some balance of strength training to build a bit of muscle and get stronger.

Who doesn’t love being able to easily snatch up 15 grocery bags and easily carry them in ?? 😉  Do you really always want to wait to have someone help you move something?

Trust me… you want to be strong.

However, you can’t ignore your cardio. Again, knowing your goals is important. If you’re a serious body builder, it’s going to be low on your list. You’ll do it but it will be a small structured part again, depending on what you’re pushing for. If you are gunning for a competition then your goals will be much more centered on lifting and building.

But… in my humble opinion… do you wanna be winded walking briskly for a distance…. even if you are sporting impressive muscles?

No. You don’t. Do your cardio.

If you do a sport like running or cycling, you definitely need to build a couple strength training days into your week.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week. That’s roughly 30 minutes, 5 days a week of brisk heart pumping, heavy breathing cardio work in addition to strength training.

Seriously, I know it’s rewarding to see what you are building on the outside, but really, you can’t discount and not take care of those inner muscles that keep you strong , healthy, and alive.. your heart, lungs, all of your cardiovascular system.

and if your cardio system is strong, well heck, that means you’ll be able to do strength training even longer with more power 😉

Again, understanding your goals is a big step to knowing how to structure your week of workouts.

As an endurance athlete I view my couple days a week lifting or doing body work as a type of preventative maintenance thing. I’m not in there to be the next body building champ…  I just want my body strong for the activities I love doing.

You can go to the internet and find all kinds of information on which is better… and the articles will be largely determined by what the person writing it likes or thinks.

Do your own research… educate yourself… but at the top of the list is understanding yourself, and your fitness goals as the top priority.

At the end of the day, you want to have a body strong for living life and handling the daily tasks you do, but you also want to be able to do those tasks without being winded and gasping for air and feeling out of shape.

If you want a strong and balanced body, you’ll learn to do both.

Find your balance and find the right combination of cardio and strength training that works for you will give you the best level of fitness for your life and goals.

 

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Cardio Fitness And Running Mountains

I talk a lot about the importance of building your body to make it strong so you are capable of handling all the tasks that come with daily living… and so hopefully when you get old you’ll have strength to continue to do things for yourself.

You must work and use your body now. If you don’t, you will lose your strength and abilities to lift, carry and work hard.

I love seeing women getting into weights not just for what it can do for them physically, but how it also empowers and builds confidence in them.

Ok, guys too. I like when people start to “get it”.

I’m just down for anyone getting stronger and able to handle whatever things they have come at them in life. Let’s face it, we’ve got a lot to deal with in our days long after we’ve finished off our workout, right ?

But now I want to put this at you. Do you ever consider the muscles inside your body and how you strengthen them each time you work out?  These aren’t visible, but oh so important.

I’m talking about our heart and lungs. Our entire  cardiovascular system.

Even if you aren’t crazy about exercise, do you ever consider the importance it has on those oh so vital organs ? Or how good, consistent exercise can lower blood pressure? Lower your resting heart rate?

None of these things are visible like outward muscles but they are trained and strengthened right along with your glutes and arms.

How do you know? You’ll see it in daily activities. Physical work is just easier for you.

Can you quickly take a flight of stairs without being out of breath?

Can you easily run across the yard with your kids and not have your heart pounding out of your chest?

Could you hop on a bike a pedal like crazy around the block and not be huffing and puffing?

There are ways your body tells you your cardio system is out of shape, just like you can tell your “outer” body is out of shape.

This is the reason why so many people hate cardio activities… it’s when they really know and declare they are “out of shape”.  They don’t like the winded, gasping for air, heart beating out of their chest, hot sweaty flushed feelings that go along with it.

I really got to thinking about that this weekend when I was with my husband and finally got to hike up and down this mountain I’d been eyeing for awhile. It’s on my list to do some trail running so needless to say, this has frequently been calling to me 😉  I wanted to see what it felt like scaling something beyond a usual “hill”.

And really, I wanted to see what I had in me too. I wanted to see how it felt in a cardio type of way to do it ( have I ever mentioned I like challenges? 😉

Below is a photo I took at the bottom before I headed back up… I left my husband watching guard over my trek back and forth 😛

 

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Can you spot my husband on top? You can see part of the path winding up the mountain…

I took off down the path not moving super fast since there was a lot of loose rocks and gravel, not to mention cactus and other prickly things. The trek down wasn’t hard and my legs which are used to hill running responded to what they’ve been trained to do.  Once I was at the bottom I took a few minutes to check out the view from below, and of course, take necessary photos 😉

Going up it was easy to move at a good pace but I had to really watch my foot placement with all the loose rock. It didn’t take to long to scale back up and my husband even commented as such.

What I loved?  besides feeling good about having done it… was the fact that after finishing that climb, although I was breathing deeply, it didn’t take long for my heart rate and breathing to drop back to completely normal.

This (for me) is a good indicator of my cardio fitness and those things inside I don’t see.

Although those activities I put myself through ( running, cycling, rowing, boxing) all add up to cardio fitness that carries over to powering up a mountain and hardly being out of breath.

So I’ll challenge you… remind you… maybe you view exercise in the light that you should do it to “look good” or “to lose weight”… and exercise does help with those things… but don’t forget exercise has huge and important benefits to those unseen, yet most important parts of you 🙂

As a final reminder… cardio work benefits your heart, lungs, blood pressure, as well as helping to drop your resting and normal heart rate. A lower heart rate means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard =)

And a few other benefits…

Increase in exercise tolerance,

Reduction in body weight

Reduction in blood pressure

Reduction in bad (LDL and total) cholesterol

Increase in good (HDL) cholesterol

Increase in insulin sensitivity

Yes, in the beginning it can be hard and uncomfortable. But in time, your internal muscles get stronger and more fit and you’ll see results when you do activities and aren’t left out of breath with a heart pounding out of your chest.

Now what are you waiting for? Find your favorite cardio activity and get after it!

What is your favorite exercise to get your heart rate up and make you breathe hard?